president of the American College of Sports Medicine in 1988. Barbara was a forerunner in the field of female athlete triad (Triad)/relative energy deficiency in sport (RED-S). Beyond this, Barbara was also vocal in the arena of women in sport, including increased opportunity and participation, total
Bryan Holtzman, Adam S. Tenforde, Allyson L. Parziale and Kathryn E. Ackerman
Female Athlete Triad (Triad) and Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S) are two similar syndromes underpinned by low energy availability (LEA) that can have negative health consequences in athletes ( De Souza et al., 2014 ; Mountjoy et al., 2014 ). Triad was originally described in 1993
Katherine A. Beals and Melinda M. Manore
This study examined the prevalence of and relationship between the disorders of the female athlete triad in collegiate athletes participating in aesthetic, endurance, or team/anaerobic sports. Participants were 425 female collegiate athletes from 7 universities across the United States. Disordered eating, menstrual dysfunction, and musculoskeletal injuries were assessed by a health/medical, dieting and menstrual history questionnaire, the Eating Attitudes Test (EAT-26), and the Eating Disorder Inventory Body Dissatisfaction Subscale (EDI-BD). The percentage of athletes reporting a clinical diagnosis of anorexia and bulimia nervosa was 3.3% and 2.3%, respectively; mean (±SD) EAT and EDI-BD scores were 10.6 ± 9.6 and 9.8 ± 7.6, respectively. The percentage of athletes with scores indicating “at-risk” behavior for an eating disorder were 15.2% using the EAT-26 and 32.4% using the EDI-BD. A similar percentage of athletes in aesthetic, endurance, and team/anaerobic sports reported a clinical diagnosis of anorexia or bulimia. However, athletes in aesthetic sports scored higher on the EAT-26 (13.5 ± 10.9) than athletes in endurance (10.0 ± 9.3) or team/anaerobic sports (9.9 ± 9.0, p < .02); and more athletes in aesthetic versus endurance or team/anaerobic sports scored above the EAT-26 cut-off score of 20 (p < .01). Menstrual irregularity was reported by 31% of the athletes not using oral contraceptives, and there were no group differences in the prevalence of self-reported menstrual irregularity. Muscle and bone injuries sustained during the collegiate career were reported by 65.9% and 34.3% of athletes, respectively, and more athletes in aesthetic versus endurance and team/anaerobic sports reported muscle (p = .005) and/or bone injuries (p < .001). Athletes “at risk” for eating disorders more frequently reported menstrual irregularity (p = .004) and sustained more bone injuries (p = .003) during their collegiate career. These data indicate that while the prevalence of clinical eating disorders is low in female collegiate athletes, many are “at risk” for an eating disorder, which places them at increased risk for menstrual irregularity and bone injuries.
Justine J. Reel, Sonya SooHoo, Holly Doetsch, Jennifer E. Carter and Trent A. Petrie
The purpose of the study was to determine prevalence rates of the female athlete triad (Triad), differences by sport category (aesthetic, endurance, and team/anaerobic), and the relationship between each of the components of the Triad. Female athletes (N= 451) from three Division I universities with an average age of 20 years completed the Menstrual History Questionnaire, Injury Assessment Questionnaire, and the Questionnaire for Eating Disorder Diagnoses (Q-EDD; Mintz, O’Halloran, Mulholland, & Schneider, 1997). Almost 7% of female athletes reported clinical eating disorders, and 19.2% reported subclinical disordered eating. Disordered eating was prevalent in all three sport categories with no significant differences between groups. Muscle injuries were more prevalent in team/anaerobic sports (77.4%) than the aesthetic (68.1%) and endurance groups (58.1%). Furthermore, those athletes with menstrual dysfunction more frequently reported clinical eating disorders (1.4%) and sustained more skeletal injuries (51%) during their athletic career than athletes with regular menstrual function. Clinical implications and further research directions are addressed.
Katie J. Thralls, Jeanne F. Nichols, Michelle T. Barrack, Mark Kern and Mitchell J. Rauh
Early detection of the female athlete triad is essential for the long-term health of adolescent female athletes. The purpose of this study was to assess relationships between common anthropometric markers (ideal body weight [IBW] via the Hamwi formula, youth-percentile body mass index [BMI], adult BMI categories, and body fat percentage [BF%]) and triad components, (low energy availability [EA], measured by dietary restraint [DR], menstrual dysfunction [MD], low bone mineral density [BMD]). In the sample (n = 320) of adolescent female athletes (age 15.9± 1.2 y), Spearman’s rho correlations and multiple logistic regression analyses evaluated associations between anthropometric clinical cutoffs and triad components. All underweight categories for the anthropometric measures predicted greater likelihood of MD and low BMD. Athletes with an IBW ≤85% were nearly 4 times more likely to report MD (OR = 3.7, 95% CI [1.8, 7.9]) and had low BMD (OR = 4.1, 95% CI [1.2, 14.2]). Those in <5th percentile for their age-specific BMI were 9 times more likely to report MD (OR 9.1, 95% CI [1.8, 46.9]) and had low BMD than those in the 50th to 85th percentile. Athletes with a high BF% were almost 3 times more likely to report DR (OR = 2.8, 95% CI [1.4, 6.1]). Our study indicates that low age-adjusted BMI and low IBW may serve as evidence-based clinical indicators that may be practically evaluated in the field, predicting MD and low BMD in adolescents. These measures should be tested for their ability as tools to minimize the risk for the triad.
Stephanie M. Miller, Sonja Kukuljan, Anne I. Turner, Paige van der Pligt and Gaele Ducher
Prevention of the female athlete triad is essential to protect female athletes’ health. The aim of this study was to investigate the knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of regularly exercising adult women in Australia toward eating patterns, menstrual cycles, and bone health.
A total of 191 female exercisers, age 18–40 yr, engaging in ≥2 hr/wk of strenuous activity, completed a survey. After 11 surveys were excluded (due to incomplete answers), the 180 participants were categorized into lean-build sports (n = 82; running/athletics, triathlon, swimming, cycling, dancing, rowing), non-lean-build sports (n = 94; basketball, netball, soccer, hockey, volleyball, tennis, trampoline, squash, Australian football), or gym/fitness activities (n = 4).
Mean (± SD) training volume was 9.0 ± 5.5 hr/wk, with participants competing from local up to international level. Only 10% of respondents could name the 3 components of the female athlete triad. Regardless of reported history of stress fracture, 45% of the respondents did not think that amenorrhea (absence of menses for ≥3 months) could affect bone health, and 22% of those involved in lean-build sports would do nothing if experiencing amenorrhea (vs. 3.2% in non-lean-build sports, p = .005). Lean-build sports, history of amenorrhea, and history of stress fracture were all significantly associated with not taking action in the presence of amenorrhea (all p < .005).
Few active Australian women are aware of the detrimental effects of menstrual dysfunction on bone health. Education programs are needed to prevent the female athlete triad and ensure that appropriate actions are taken by athletes when experiencing amenorrhea.
Noel Pollock, Claire Grogan, Mark Perry, Charles Pedlar, Karl Cooke, Dylan Morrissey and Lygeri Dimitriou
Low bone-mineral density (BMD) is associated with menstrual dysfunction and negative energy balance in the female athlete triad. This study determines BMD in elite female endurance runners and the associations between BMD, menstrual status, disordered eating, and training volume. Forty-four elite endurance runners participated in the cross-sectional study, and 7 provided longitudinal data. Low BMD was noted in 34.2% of the athletes at the lumbar spine, and osteoporosis in 33% at the radius. In cross-sectional analysis, there were no significant relationships between BMD and the possible associations. Menstrual dysfunction, disordered eating, and low BMD were coexistent in 15.9% of athletes. Longitudinal analysis identified a positive association between the BMD reduction at the lumbar spine and training volume (p = .026). This study confirms the presence of aspects of the female athlete triad in elite female endurance athletes and notes a substantial prevalence of low BMD and osteoporosis. Normal menstrual status was not significantly associated with normal BMD, and it is the authors’ practice that all elite female endurance athletes undergo dual-X-ray absorptiometry screening. The association between increased training volume, trend for menstrual dysfunction, and increased loss of lumbar BMD may support the concept that negative energy balance contributes to bone loss in athletes.
Joan E. Benson, Kathryn A. Engelbert-Fenton and Patricia A. Eisenman
Female athletes experience a high incidence of menstrual abnormalities. This has critical health consequences because amenorrhea athletes are at greater risk of developing osteopenia and bone injury compared to normally menstruating athletes or nonathletic normally cycling females. Female performers and athletes are also at risk for developing disordered eating behaviors. There appears to be a connection between menstrual dysfunction, athletic training, and disordered eating, but how they relate is not fully understood. In this paper we explore how low calorie intakes, nutritional inadequacies, vegetarianism, low body fat stores, and specific training behaviors may contribute to the abnormal menstrual patterns seen in this population. Recommendations for the detection and prevention of eating and training problems and consequent menstrual abnormalities are included.
Kirsty J. Elliott-Sale, Adam S. Tenforde, Allyson L. Parziale, Bryan Holtzman and Kathryn E. Ackerman
: 25397605 doi:10.1249/MSS.0000000000000574 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000574 Ackerman , K.E. , & Misra , M. ( 2011 ). Bone health and the female athlete triad in adolescent athletes . Physician and Sportsmedicine, 39 ( 1 ), 131 – 141 . PubMed ID: 21378496 doi:10.3810/psm.2011.02.1871 10.3810/psm.2011
Jason D. Vescovi and Jaci L. VanHeest
This observational case study examined the association of inter- and intraday energy intake and exercise energy expenditure with bone health, menstrual status and hematological factors in a female triathlete. The study spanned 7 months whereby energy intake and exercise energy expenditure were monitored three times (13 d); 16 blood samples were taken, urinary hormones were assessed for 3 months, and bone mineral density was measured twice. Energy availability tended to be sustained below 30 kcal/kg FFM/d and intraday energy intake patterns were often “back-loaded” with approximately 46% of energy consumed after 6 p.m. Most triiodothyronine values were low (1.1–1.2nmol/L) and supportive of reduced energy availability. The athlete had suppressed estradiol (105.1 ± 71.7pmol/L) and progesterone (1.79 ±1.19nmol/L) concentrations as well as urinary sex-steroid metabolites during the entire monitoring period. Lumbar spine (L1-L4) bone mineral density was low (age-matched Z-score −1.4 to −1.5). Despite these health related maladies the athlete was able to perform typical weekly training loads (swim: 30–40 km, bike: 120–300 km, run 45–70 km) and was competitive as indicated by her continued improvement in ITU World Ranking during and beyond the assessment period. There is a delicate balance between health and performance that can become blurred especially for endurance athletes. Education (athletes, coaches, parents) and continued monitoring of specific indicators will enable evidence-based recommendations to be provided and help reduced the risk of health related issues while maximizing performance gains. Future research needs to longitudinally examine how performance on standardized tests in each discipline (e.g., 800-m swim, 20-km time trial, 5-km run) is impacted when aspects of the female athlete triad are present.